We all want to be happy. Of course we do. And why not start with work?
The theme of ‘how do we make our workplace happier’ has come up a lot recently.
(It may be something to do with that Blue Monday in January casting a longer shadow than necessary). It is such a well-meaning, worthwhile and valuable ambition: and so fraught with the potential for unintended consequences.
I heard a talk from a bouncy, energetic, open and enthusiastic person responsible in his organization for ‘helping people work better and go home happier’.
It’s a lovely goal, isn’t it?
The content fizzed with, creative, light-hearted, energising ideas, events techniques and beliefs that engendered energy and happiness.
Oddly, I felt panic rising.
There is something especially disquieting about forced-fun, isn’t there? And later, a clue as to why this open hearted, apparently generous, workplace culture-creation may not be all it purports to be appeared in that serendipitous way that clues sometimes do: A remnant of a poster for King Lear.
The Fool is a key character in the play.
The Fool is responsible for… helping the King work better and go home happier… isn’t he? And a key ingredient of his persona and role is to tell the truth; to say what no one dares to say; to perceive what might be unpalatable; to reveal through fun and foolishness the hidden things that need to be brought into the light.
It’s dark stuff.
A truly happy workplace doesn’t seek only to move from dull to interesting, from grey to colourful, from serious to light hearted.
By choosing – imposing – only the ‘light’ aspects of our work community cultures, we actually stay in an infantilized place of a ‘new norm’, of being told how things are and how they should be. And how we should be.
A truly happy workplace seeks to move from constrained, compliant, closed to energetic, diverse, open…and sometimes dissenting.
It will feel happy a lot of the time.
And sometimes not.